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By William Gibson March 23, 2011 09:56 AM

The Coast Guard has formed contingency plans to protect U.S. waters and
beaches in case of a major oil spill from drilling operations off the
north coast of .

Cuba has contracted with a Spanish Company, Repsol, to drill exploratory
wells, likely beginning later this year.

“As a result of the proposed North Cuba Basin oil exploration, the Coast
Guard is updating plans required to ensure that we are ready to address
a potential discharge from drilling off the coast of Cuba that could
potentially impact U.S. waters,” Coast Guard Rear Admiral William
Baumgartner said in a letter to U.S. House members David Rivera and
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Miami Republicans.

The House members had met with Baumgartner on Monday to talk about Cuban
drilling plans.

“There is no longer a question of if but a question of when Cuba will
start drilling for oil,” Rivera said. “Some of the drilling sites could
be as close as 50 miles from the coast of Key West.”

Rivera has co-sponsored a bill that would deny leases and permits to
drill in U.S. waters to companies that do business with Cuba and other
countries subject to U.S. sanctions or embargoes.

Repsol spokesman Kristian Rix told the Sun Sentinel, “Regarding safety,
we are confident that we have the right personnel and materials to drill
safely and successfully in the area.”

Former Florida Senator Bob Graham, co-chairman of a national commission
on offshore drilling, is urging U.S. officials to form a regional pact
with Cuba and Mexico to establish safety standards and a oil-spill
response plan.

http://weblogs.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/dcblog/2011/03/coast_guard_braces_for_potenti_1.html

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